When it comes to providing one-of-a-kind guest experiences, a growing number of hoteliers are discovering the power of big data to make things personal.
Big data’s power is in its ability to help users pinpoint relevant information to help them make more informed business decisions. In the hospitality space, that means finding ways to improve guest experiences beyond loyalty programs and two-for-one drink coupons. To do that, hotels are harnessing big data analytics to proactively plan for—and then cater to—guests’ needs and preferences, from perks based on previous stays to in-room options for particular types of guests, such as printers for business travelers or nightlights for families with small children.
To gain the most from big data, hospitality providers need a network powerful enough to support the systems and software necessary to collect and analyze data. A connectivity portfolio that includes a mix of both wired and wireless technologies can enable a seamless, exceptional user experience for both providers and their guests while providing the connectivity necessary to power big data software and services. Having the right connectivity portfolio that meets all needs is a must for hotels that want to employ the power of big data to delight their guests and stay relevant in the face of increased competition.
Big Data to Improve the Customer Experience
The hospitality industry is a sector ripe for big data. Its wealth of data—from how frequently certain guests stay at the hotel to the types of drinks they order and what time they request their wake-up call—means hoteliers are uniquely equipped to provide exceptional individual customer experiences.
However, traditionally this information has been of little use to hoteliers, who had no way of distilling the data to provide actionable insights. But thanks to big data analytics, hoteliers now can use this data, as well as information gathered from outside sources, to provide extraordinary personalized service for their guests.
According to a study by Forrester, more travelers prefer to stay in hotels that know them compared with hotels that don’t. Big data, then, can be a critical element in ensuring guests become repeat guests who are equally satisfied—even delighted—during every stay.
Using big data analytics, hotels can tap into information from customers’ previous stays to understand their preferences and anticipate their needs. They then can use that information to offer discounts on services such as personalized workouts or perks such as extended check-out.
Alternatively, hotels can use customer information gathered from travel booking sites to create personalized offers with enticements such as meal vouchers, or to offer special rates at various locations to customers. Information gathered from these sites, such as dates of travel, properties viewed and filters set such as pet-friendly hotels or properties close to attractions, can be used to create specific offers such as discounted attraction tickets or dog-walking services, for example.
Repeat customers are a goldmine of information for hoteliers. Knowing—and acting on—their preferences is how hotels not only keep guests coming back, but making them guests for life. Big data enables such relationships to develop. A hotel that knows a particular guest always requests a room far from the elevator or on the highest possible floor, for example, can use that information to provide the guest with a room in his preferred location automatically. Such proactivity can foster loyalty among guests.
In the same vein, using big data analytics, a hotel can understand a guest’s dietary restrictions and food likes and dislikes, based on past meal and drink orders. It then can create or adjust menu offerings for the guest that meet her needs, such as low-carb or gluten-free, or even a strong distaste for peas. Hotels can provide the service with both in-room and in-restaurant dining, extending the personalized experience into other areas of the hotel.
Big data can offer more than insights on customer wants, however. Using big data analytics, hoteliers can anticipate guest needs based on factors including the type of traveler and activities from past stays.
Recognizing the need many business travelers have for standard office equipment but their difficulty in finding such services—or inconvenience in having to visit the onsite business center—hotels, can proactively stock a guest’s room with basic supplies such as paper clips, extra pens, a stapler and even a printer. In addition, rooms for business travelers could feature amenities those guests appreciate most, such as extra in-room coffee supplies or a well-stocked minibar.
Families have different needs than business travelers, and big data analytics can help hotels address those needs proactively before a family even checks in. Knowing a family has two children under the age of 6—information gleaned from the booking site the family used to reserve their room—the hotel could place the family in a room without a mini-bar and provide amenities such as a bath mat for safety and a nightlight. The hotel also could stock the room with crayons and coloring books or electronic devices loaded with family-friendly games to keep the children occupied in the room.
Big data also can help personalize guests’ check-in experience. For example, a hotel agent checking in a business traveler could ask if he would like to have his regular room service order delivered at a specified time, or if he would prefer a reservation in the hotel restaurant. Likewise, the agent can inquire about making spa or other services appointments based on past data, while the system can alert housekeeping to deliver shaving supplies to the guest within 15 minutes of check-in, knowing the guest always calls to request a razor.
While in the room, technology can help guests feel more at home, which further extends a hotel’s loyalty proposition. In-room entertainment, for example, now can provide that “home away from home” experience, with features not traditionally found in hotels. The ability to pause and rewind TV shows and view video on demand are being embraced by hoteliers as a way to further advance the guest experience. Combined with the insight big data analytics provides, these services enable hoteliers to extend customer service and personalization well beyond today’s expectations.
Other Customer Factors
The power of big data also can help hoteliers make insightful decisions using customer data that ultimately can impact their bottom line. Analytics can help spot customers considered “more valuable” based on various data points, and can cull customer feedback from social media sites to make improvements to its facilities or business. Analytics can even influence how rooms are designed and laid out.
Guest profiling may sound like a derogatory practice, but it’s important to hotels in determining which guests will prove to be more valuable to the hotel over time. Guests who visit the hotel once or twice a year and spend little on services and amenities actually may be considered of higher value to the hotel than one who visits once, staying in a suite and spending a lot on food, drinks and services. Over time, guests who are careful in their spending yet return time and again will be more profitable for the hotel than one-time spendthrifts.
Big data analytics can pinpoint high-value guests and give hoteliers the opportunity to recognize and reward them through room upgrades or free meal or drink vouchers, for example.
In addition, hotels can use big data analytics to measure customer satisfaction and determine areas in need of improvement and areas of distinction. A group of former guests complaining on social media about the level of noise coming from the pool area after 10 p.m., for example, can spur the hotel to change its pool hours to close earlier in the evening. Or, if the hotel discovers guests noting the long wait times to check in and out, it can employ handheld devices to enable agents to move into the lobby and assist guests, reducing their wait times and increasing customer satisfaction.
Alternatively, positive comments made on social media regarding the hotel spa’s hot stone massage can influence the hotel to offer destination specials or spa packages focusing on the massage. Such information also can help shape future marketing campaigns, as the hotel can target advertisements and personalized promotions directly at those guests who reported a positive experience.
Big data analysis also can influence more esoteric elements of the guest experience, such as guest room designs and layouts. Families usually require more storage space in the bathroom and a full closet, while business travelers prefer large work areas and plenty of power outlets. Hotels can cater to both types of guests by designing rooms specific to their preferences, providing spaces that best fit their needs. The rooms also can be furnished to be more family-friendly, with more drawer space and an open space for kids to play, or business-friendly, with outlets convenient to the nightstand, comfortable desk chairs and televisions that swivel at all angles.
What’s more, big data can be used to help a hotel determine how many of each type of room it needs. A property that caters more to business travelers obviously would design the majority—if not all—its rooms to accommodate those types of guests. But hotels located close to attractions such as theme parks, which are a natural destination for families, also may see a fair amount of business travelers visiting to attend a conference located at the attraction. That hotel can use big data analysis to determine which type of guest is more likely to stay at the hotel because of its design—and how many would be likely to return.
The sky is the limit on the number of ways big data can help hotels provide an exceptional guest experience, giving hoteliers innumerable ways to personalize interactions between hotel and guest. These opportunities will only increase as the market matures and new ways of tapping customer sentiment and relevant data are discovered.
The Network is the Key
Indeed, big data helps bring about myriad prospects for hotels in providing stellar guest experiences for all types of travelers. But big data’s influence relies heavily on the underlying network, which must be robust enough to support not only the hotel’s daily systems and software but also the technologies necessary to collect and analyze enormous amounts of data coming from numerous sources. The network also must provide both wired and wireless customer connectivity—a must-have functionality for hotels of every type.
WiFi networks are a critical element of a hotel’s network infrastructure for big data, as the information gleaned from guests using WiFi networks on-property is a critical piece of the big data puzzle for hotels. In addition to providing a service today’s guests expect, hotels that offer WiFi can collect valuable user data such as the locations a guest visited on-property and how long the guest stayed at each location, for example.
Hotels using big data might consider two separate WiFi networks—a public network for guests and another, private network to keep valuable data safe from potential security breaches and to ensure guests have an optimal connectivity experience.
What’s more, a hotel’s network should be flexible enough to increase or decrease in bandwidth to help the hotel keep up with the needs of its systems and its guests during peak usage times.
The right network depends also on a provider that understands the dynamic nature of big data and its importance to the customer experience. As such, hotels should look for a network service provider that can deliver the technology and expertise to effectively manage an infrastructure capable of handling the needs of big data as well as the other systems and software critical to delivering top-level service.
Big data has the potential to help hoteliers take their guest experiences to the next level. As a growing number of hoteliers embrace big data to uncover and anticipate and cater to guests’ preferences and needs, much depends on the strength, stability and flexibility of their network. It is critical hotels work with a network service provider that can meet the needs of big data as well as day-to-day systems that contribute to providing an exception guest experience.